As an enlisted Army Light Infantry veteran with active duty tours in two foreign theaters, one an occupied city and one a combat zone, also Airborne-qualified with prior service in the 11th Special Forces Group, and eventual officer commissioning into the Delaware National Guard, I find utterly disturbing these pictures and quotes from the New York Times May 13 article "Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More".
IMPERIAL, Calif. — Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor.
The responding officers — eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 — face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots — BAM! BAM! — fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed.
“United States Border Patrol! Put your hands up!” screams one in a voice cracking with adolescent determination as the suspect is subdued.
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.
The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.
“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”
There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them.
Several years ago, two University of Nebraska criminal justice professors published a study that found at least a dozen cases of sexual abuse involving police officers over the last decade. Adult Explorer leaders are now required to take an online training program on sexual misconduct.
Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees.
The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.
“Our end goal is to create more agents,” said April McKee, a senior Border Patrol agent and mentor at the session here.
Just as there are soccer moms, there are Explorers dads, who attend the competitions, man the hamburger grill and donate their land for the simulated marijuana field raids. In their training, the would-be law-enforcement officers do not mess around, as revealed at a recent competition on the state fairgrounds here, where a Ferris wheel sat next to the police cars set up for a felony investigation.
Their hearts pounding, Explorers moved down alleys where there were hidden paper targets of people pointing guns, and made split-second decisions about when to shoot. In rescuing hostages from a bus taken over by terrorists, a baby-faced young girl screamed, “Separate your feet!” as she moved to handcuff her suspect.
Authenticity seems to be the goal. Imperial County, in Southern California, is the poorest in the state, and the local economy revolves largely around the criminal justice system. In addition to the sheriff and local police departments, there are two state prisons and a large Border Patrol and immigration enforcement presence.
These pictures are, in my mind, demonstrable child abuse, in the form of militarist mind control and conditioning of young, not-fully-developed nor fully-educated adolescents to reflexively apply force to other human beings as though they are animals.
Mind you, this happy little adulteration of a national youth group into a breeding/weeding ground for aggressive little government storm trooper types is geared toward domestic activities.
[Speaking of storm troopers, the irony should not be lost that this twisted program is carried out in Imperial, California...also, surely by happenstance, the poorest county in California.]
It is one thing for someone to enlist in the military at a young age. The U.S. military has a continuous 200+ year history of professional esprit de corps, constant training and personal development, strict controls over chain of command and responsibility, SOP's out the wazoo, constant supervision especially over junior enlisted, accountability enforced by immediate superiors and line commanders through a Uniform Code of Military Justice, and a largely-limited well-honed focus on how armed force is to be carried out and by whom.
The military is an all or nothing commitment, once undertaken, and is not simply a matter of throwing faux-firearms into young hands and holding tactical training exercises in use of deadly force.
Training adolescents in tactical, realistic situations by which they are taught to employ violence and weaponry, if necessary inflicting injury and death on some nebulous opposing force, is extraordinarily misguided. Doing it behind the guise of "Scout" activities is reprehensible and insidious.
Our police/law enforcement agents are tasked to keep the peace, not to wage war on their fellow citizens.
Exposing and ingratiating children to law enforcement through the lens of tactical military-style operations is the work of law-and-order police state thuggery, not very short of what the brown shirts (the Nazi SA) did with impressionable youth.
[The SA's maxims were : "Terror must be broken by terror" and "All opposition must be stamped into the ground".]
The fact that it happens under a phony patina of "honor" and "courage" is part and parcel of this corruption of youth.
I bet you not one of these children could adequately explain the bill of rights or enumerate the essential constitutional protections owing to any and every person subjected to state force (not just Miranda warnings, either)....but then I doubt the jackbooted overseers of this outrage have much of a grasp on them either.
Yet, these children are being conditioned in how to kick down doors, shout commands, and "neutralize" human beings in a domestic civil context under the pretext of legitimate governmental authority.
Let's just hope such a travesty like this never comes to Delaware : predation on children from poor areas to turn them into loyal police state troopers.....oh, shoot, I forgot....it already has...possibly even worse.
ADDENDUM : For an interesting (true) liberal perspective check out this post by attorney Rick Horowitz on his blog Probable Cause.
ADDENDUM 2 : In an older (2006) commentary from, of all places, Popular Mechanics, law professor Glenn Reynolds enumerates the dangers of paramilitary civilian police forces.